Pick Your Poison

Even though he was not at full strength, an under-the-weather Eddie Lacy blew through a Minnesota defense designed to limit prolific Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS – This is what all of the great offenses do.

Pick your poison.

As a defensive coordinator, do you play coverage to limit Aaron Rodgers, only for Eddie Lacy to control the game on the ground? Or do you take away Lacy, only to get picked apart by Rodgers?

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer elected to take away Rodgers. It worked to an extent. It didn’t matter on the scoreboard, though. The Green Bay Packers won 24-21 to move into first place in the NFC North.

“Teams are going to take away what we do best, and what we’ve done best is get the ball to Jordy (Nelson) and Randall (Cobb),” Rodgers said. “They’ve had big statistical seasons so they try to take them out of the game.”

Rodgers threw for only 209 yards and two touchdowns – that would have ranked as a so-so first half in recent wins at Lambeau Field, when defenses put the bull’s-eye on Lacy, only to be destroyed by Rodgers and Co. Lacy, however, rushed for 125 rushing yards and two total touchdowns.

Not bad for a player who apparently was under the weather. Lacy felt good enough to run for 27 yards on the game-clinching drive. He didn’t feel good enough to talk to reporters afterward. So, his teammates did the talking after doing the blocking.

“Yeah, I knew he wasn’t feeling great. He’s a tough son of a bitch,” said left guard Josh Sitton, who played through a painful toe injury for the third consecutive week. “You expect guys to go out there and give it their all all the time, but when you’re not feeling good, it can be tough. He was Eddie the whole game. That’s very impressive.”

The Vikings played mostly Cover-2 in order to limit the explosive plays produced in recent weeks by Nelson and Cobb. They combined for 12 receptions for 126 yards, with the Vikings holding Nelson to a long of 14 yards.

“I think any time you’re playing a team that has explosive offensive weapons, a quarterback that can run and hurt you with his legs and then a physical back, you kind of have to pick your spots and where you’re trying to stop them,” Zimmer said. “For the most part, we did that some today. They had some tough matchups outside at times, as well. You’re trying to eliminate certain things at certain times, and it’s tough to do on every play.”

They couldn’t stop Lacy, especially when it counted. Other than a 105-yard game against Minnesota on Oct. 2, Lacy’s biggest day of the season was last week, when he used a 37-yard run to put up 69 yards against Philadelphia. In fact, the reigning Rookie of the Year had only three games of more than 50 yards all season.

Lacy and the offensive line had come under a little fire for those lackluster numbers, but that was missing the big picture. With defenses designed to take away Lacy, Rodgers torched them through the air. With a defense designed to take away Rodgers, it turns out the running game is just fine, after all.

“He’s been our run game the whole year,” center Corey Linsley said. “Our offensive line to Eddie has been criticized. Games like this when we really need it, we step up and we got it. I think it really says a lot of Eddie and a lot about us.”

The powerful Lacy gives the Packers a much-needed one-two punch offensively, especially with the potential for cold and challenging weather against New England, Atlanta and Buffalo the next three weeks, Detroit in the regular-season finale and a potential playoff run.

“Yeah, I think it shows that we are able to pass the ball when needed and run the ball when needed,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “Having that balance in an offense is very, very good. Obviously, Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback in the league and then we can turn around and give it to Eddie and get those yards and do what we need to do on the ground. That’s good balance heading down the stretch.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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